The Xbox 360 has changed since its launch in 2005.

That much is transparently clear from the updated version that debuted in 2010.

The Xbox 360 S is smaller, sleeker and quieter than the previous model and designed to banish the infamous 'Red Ring of Death' hardware failure that forced Microsoft to extend its warranty on the system.

Likewise the arrival of Kinect, which has gone on to sell over 10 million units, has transformed the machine from solely the preserve of hardcore gamers to a casual gamer friendly environment.

While some of the novelty of Kinect may have worn off, if anything the games are improving – finding new ways to take advantage of what is still fascinating technology.

But Microsoft is and always has been a software company first and foremost and, fittingly, that's where the Xbox 360 has changed the most. The NXE update of 2008 binned the old 'blades' system for an interface that was more welcoming to multimedia content and 2011 has seen another major update to the console's operating system. One so substantial, we've felt it necessary to update this review to reflect what a different machine it is.

Whether it's the old model or the new one, the Xbox 360 has now comprehensively changed from a machine primarily about playing games, with a modest selection of online content attached, to a fully featured entertainment and media hub.
new xbox 360 dashboard
The majority of forms of digital entertainment are catered for, there are extensive social networking features available and a new TV tab aims to replace traditional digital boxes with IPTV and catch up services.

The new dashboard, based around the Metro design language that also features in Windows 8 and Windows Phone 7, is a far busier interface, but it's reflective of the huge amounts of content now available within the walled garden of Xbox Live.

Getting to it all has always been the challenge and Microsoft has made admirable steps towards making that a straightforward process.


 new xbox 360 250gb

You'd think that the most significant change for the new widely touted 'Xbox 360 Slim' would be its size, but surprisingly, it's not.

At 270mm in height, it's sufficiently shorter than the 310mm tall old 360. But it's only a measly half-a-centimeter slimmer (and fatter than the PS3 Slim) and, would you believe, it's actually slightly deeper than the old 360, too.

Just to make it easier at a glance, here are its dimensions beside the older model, and the PS3 slim just for some extra comparison:

Console: Height/Width/Depth/weight

  • Xbox 360 250GB: 270mm x 75mm x 264mm, 2.9kg
  • Xbox 360 Elite: 310mm x 80mm x 260mm, 3.5kg
  • PS3 Slim: 290mm × 65mm ×290mm, 3.5kg
new xbox 360 250gb
As you can see, its profile is not much 'slim' but more 'light'. It's the lightest of the current-gen consoles by a fair amount, although it's worth noting right now that the PS3 Slim's extra heft also counts for the system's internal power supply, which disappointingly remains external (albeit smaller than the previous power brick) in the new Xbox.
new xbox 360 250gb
Instead, the more significant changes are in the console's aesthetics and hardware configuration. First of all, that matte plastic has been swapped for a super sexy gloss black.
new xbox 360 250gb
Where the old console's bubble-like roundness wouldn't look too out of place on the Tomy Toys page of your Argos catalogue, the new console dons sharp edges and harsh lines that almost resemble a stealth fighter (fittingly so given its new quieter operating volume, but more on that later).
new xbox 360 250gb
And then there's that grill on the side – a surprisingly large and aggressive opening that's more like something you'd expect from a third-party case mod than the usually reserved standard skin. Consoles usually hide away their tightly-packed insides but the new Xbox flaunts it, giving you a good look at the system's case fan.


The power and disc eject buttons are no longer the clunky things they were before. In fact you don't press them at all – they're capacitive touch buttons that respond to no more than a gentle prod.
touch buttons
The console makes a funky beep sound to acknowledge your touch, but it's thankfully a more calming chime and not that horrible microwave-style bleep of the PS3.

The console's cleaner appearance is also partly thanks to the omission of the proprietary memory stick ports – MS updated the 360 recently to accept any USB stick as usable memory; a move which pretty much rendered the notoriously more expensive native memory cards redundant anyway.

The two front-loading USB ports remain, tucked neatly way behind a little flap which sits in line with the new bigger and more responsive controller sync button.

The console actually now has five USB ports total instead of the previous three, but those additional ones have been tucked away on the back of the console.

The new disc drive is considerably smoother and quieter than before. Now, we know some of you will, right off the bat, question MS' decision to stick with a disc tray rather than the admittedly sleeker slot-loading drive like on PS3 and Wii. Honestly speaking we would have preferred a slot loader too.

Anyhow, the new drive has none of that Aiwa tape deck-like clunkyness to it. We always wondered what part of the old Xbox could possibly make such a loud 'ker-chunk' sound as the drive closed – that teeth-gritting sound is no longer present here.

We tried moving the console while a disc was spinning inside – something that resulted in a severely scratched disc in the old console. The result? We're certain the result was even worse!

Clearly Microsoft has been unable to find a solution the intense centrifugal forces that bend the disc and make it touch harmful nearby surfaces in the drive. The console does in fact have a sticker on the front which warns against moving it while a disc is spinning. Does this make up for the flaw in our eyes? Not a chance.

On the backside

Flip the console round and you're greeted by a few new ports, too. As we said before, there are three USB ports back here instead of one. You'll now be able to plug a digital optical audio lead directly into the console for your 5.1 surround kits, instead of having to go through external ports on the AV lead.
new xbox 360 250gb
Most interesting though is the 'Aux' port, which is basically where Kinect, Microsoft's new motion-sensing gadget releasing in November, will be plugged in. This port will both operate and power the device. Users of the old console will plug Kinect in via a USB adapter and draw power from a wall socket.

Video is delivered to your TV either via standard HDMI or the proprietary Xbox AV port, which is the same size as before so all your old AV cables will work, which is handy for anyone upgrading from the old console because, ridiculously, the new Xbox comes with no HD video leads whatsoever.

All you get in the box is the standard composite lead, which only does SD – and poorly at that. Everyone else will otherwise have to add the cost of an HDMI lead to their bill before they can see the crisp HD resolutions this machine is capable of.

There's an Ethernet network port back here too, although we'd like to think anyone grabbing the new console will make use of the now built-in Wi-Fi capability.

Finally, Microsoft is no longer bending you over a table with its £70 proprietary Wi-Fi adapter necessary before. Just turn it on and you're wireless right out of the box.

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